New Ibec research reveals business expectations for return to workplaces

May 17, 2021

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has published the results of a major survey of business that reveals that businesses across Ireland are beginning their preparations for a gradual return to workplaces in the coming weeks and months. The survey findings reaffirm the urgent need for Government to provide clarity and timelines to support businesses in safely returning staff to the workplace.

Ibec CEO Danny McCoy: “Clarity from Government on the timing of graduated workplace reopening is now key for companies in order to reignite collaboration, culture and confidence in their workforce. Government’s roadmap must be aligned with an ongoing review of reopening timelines that reflects the risk reduction that the vaccine programme is delivering. This means a potential earlier gradual return to workplaces than the previously flagged expected return time of September. 

“Over a quarter of respondents (28%) will plan their return to the workplace in line with Government advice and/or the finalisation of the vaccination rollout. A similar proportion (29%) expect to return in September 2021 and one in five organisations expect to be fully back in the workplace within the next three months (21%). Therefore, if Government guidelines provide for it, it seems likely that 78% of respondent organisations could be returned to the workplace by September of this year.

“In recent years we have witnessed emerging trends towards more flexible and remote working. Our survey results confirm that Covid has accelerated this trend, with four out of five respondent companies stating that they will operate a hybrid model of remote and onsite work to a degree when their offices reopen. 15% of respondents will ask all staff to return onsite fully and 4% will keep their staff remote working on a full-time basis. 

“Almost three quarters of companies (74%) say that the use of hybrid working will increase in their organisations over the next 2-3 years. While these trends signal the need for increased ambition in the delivery of necessary infrastructure such as remote working hubs, alignment with childcare facilities, and the National Broadband Plan, first and foremost Government must outline to organisations how and when they can begin efforts to gradually return their staff safely to the office. As swift a return as possible to office work is also vital in order to preserve the future of the many Experience Economy businesses in our towns and cities that rely on office worker footfall for their survival.”

Other key findings from the survey include:

74% of respondents have adopted some form of hybrid working over the past 12 months. 20% had all employees working remotely while 4% had all employees working onsite. Other arrangements applied in 2% of respondent organisations.
Half of respondents said that for an initial period they will limit business travel both locally and internationally. Just under a fifth said that they would do this indefinitely. 
45% will stagger employee teams to ensure social distancing for a period, while 18% will do this indefinitely. 
The survey also asked businesses to look to the next 2-3 years post-Covid: 
o 70% believe they will adopt new ways of working to facilitate flexibility. 
o 61% believe that they will make permanent changes to support better public health in the workplace.
o 55% will place greater focus on employee output rather than presence.

Full report can be found attached. 


Ibec - Returning to the Workplace 2021 survey pdf | 522.5 kb